Saturday, September 30, 2006

Iron Mountain

Today I went for a hike up Iron Mountain with Ashley Hatfield and my roomate Jason Killian along who brought McKenzie along.  I had gotten up early and went to Firestone to have 4 brand new tires put on my truck.  I got the Bridgestone AT Dueler Revo's, a sick tire that performs amazingly in wet conditions ie, the Pacific Northwest.  Thus, I was anxious to test them out so I opted to drive with Jason and Kenze in the backseat.  We left here around 9:45 and got to the mountain around 11 after stopping for some munchies in Lebanon, OR.  The road was very winding both there and back and the tires performed amazingly never squeeling or chirping at all as I took the corners at a pretty fast pace.
    The hike was a loop trail that Jason took me on skirting the slopes of Cone peak and then eventually veering off on a side trail to the top of Iron Mountain.  The vegetation and forests in Iron_mtn_93006_003
Oregon are amazing.  The trees are so spread out from one another with very little low brush that during the winter you can pretty much pick your own line down any powdery slope on skis.  On the drive up we past several "chain-hookup" areas where cars and even 4x4 trucks are required to put chains on in the winter because the snow gets rough in the past and up to
Iron_mtn_93006_007 10-15 feet deep at times.  Jason had Kenze on a leash because it is hunting season but as soon
as we got to an open meadow (where it was clear he wasn't a damn deer) he unleashed him.... bad idea.... apparently for the first time ever Kenze decided to roll in shit... literally shit, either cougar or bear shit... and it stunk like indian food wrapped in a dirty diaper.  So, for the rest of the trip Kenze was back on the leash... 
    We passed through beautiful meadows which would have been covered with flowers had it be
Iron_mtn_93006_018en spring time.  In the distance we could see Iron Mountain with it's volcanic cone dominating the view westward.   We went around Cone mountain without running up to it's
summit which I was a little dissapointed by (because I'm a peak bagging whore) but I know it's always there for when I want to go back, and I'm sure I will... possibly to ski the big open meadows down to Route 20 below.  We descended slightly to the pass between the two mountains andIron_mtn_93006_038
then proceeded to climb a side trail to the summit where we were rewarded with amazing views of some of the Cascade Volcanoes including Hood, Mt. Washinton, The Sisters, Jefferson and even Bachelor in the distance.  We could also see Hoodoo ski resort as well.  In the far distance from where we had come we could even see Mary's peak rising into the valley fog.  Some haze in the distance was a dirty brown due to forest fires in to the Iron_mtn_93006_033
south, but ultimately it was a blue-bird-sky day and we had great views.  Being a geologist, as is Ashley, I was amazed at the volcanic structures in the area such as volcanic terraces left over by cooling lavas, giant volcanic cone
Iron_mtn_93006_056s and plugs that were left exposed due to erososion around them, and volcanic
pummice everywhere on the ground which I was suprised Kenze didn't cut his paws on.  The colors in the volcanic rocks from weathering and corrosion where also amazing.  On the way down we even saw an ancient dike rising a good 20 feet out of the side of the mountain like a giant red fin covered with brilliant green moss.  Of course, Jason was looking at it for ways to scale it while I was looking at the angle below it as if I could jump off it with skis on. 
    The summit of the mountain had a nice observatory and deck with a firetower cabin as well.  The area was fenced in of course to keep idiots from falling off the volcanic spires to the sharp volcanic rocks and trees below.  We met several older couples who were also out enjoying the aft
Iron_mtn_93006_060ernoon.  I got some great pics (seriously, click on them, they are pretty sweet) and then we headed down to the road again.  When we got to the truck we wrapped Kenzie up in a Patogonia
shirt and my t-shirt to cover the smell (didn't work too good) and to prevent him from smearing it on the fabric of my seats on the ride home.  He was so zonked that it really wasn't an issue.  The drive home was fun with all the turns in the road and we got back to Corvallis with plenty of time for me to wash my truck as well.  What a great day!


Friday, September 29, 2006

First Week of classes

Well, it's been a while since my last blog entry but I've been very busy adjusting to life here in Oregon and graduate school.  I made it through my first week of classes.  Right now I'm taking Chemical Oceaongraphy and Physical Oceanography (I'm an Oceanography Major in the Marine Geology & Geophysics Department of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Studies (COAS) here at Oregon State University (OSU).  I'm also taking a very difficult math course called Matrix and Power Series.  It is actually an upper level undergraduate course but since I haven't taken a bit of math or applied it in any way since my last class in 2000 I'm pretty bad at it... This past week I spent 25 hours studying math alone and I've only made it 30 pages into the text book.  I've apparently forgotten all my elementary math skills but they are coming back - slowly.  It's very frustrating because much of what I'll be doing (my assistantship is studying micro earthquakes off the Oregon Coast) requires a lot of math computation with computers in matrix series.  On the other hand, I knew I would encounter stumbling blocks towards my goals here and this is just one that I'll have to overcome with a lot of hard work.  It's not on my graduate school requirement list (Anne Trehu, my advisor, told me I need to take it to brush up on my math) so I changed it to Pass/Fail which eases my worries a bit. 
    The campus here is amazing.  I've never gone to a school with more than 2,000 people in it and this one has about 19,000 students, nearly 10x what I'm used to.  The facilities here are hi-tech and the rec center just got rebuilt two years ago to now include a bike shop where you can repair your bike, a large indoor track on the 2nd floor, an 18 person hot tub and sauna next to the regulation pool, and a HUGE indoor rock climbing gym.  The rock gym has amazing routes laid out in it, a bouldering cave and the walls around are nearly 50 feet high for belay-assisted climbs.  I quickly got my belay certification done before classes started and have been climbing at lunch time for 30-45 minutes every other day, slowly regaining my hand and arm strength on the wall as well as working on my positioning skills.  On the days when I'm not bouldering in the gym I'm doing lap swims at lunch time in the pool then soaking briefly in the hot tub for a few minutes.  I'm going to keep this up so that I can train my body to be as efficient and as powerful as it can be to tackle some of the big volcanoes out here and backcountry ski descents.  Plus... Everest is still on my mind down the road.  Last week I took a "core abs" class which was free for the first week of school.  Hahaha... big mistake... I walked in a minute late and barely made it into the room where I saw about 25 beautiful (but very young) girls sitting on big blue inflatable balls with only about two other guys in the room.  The instructor had the class warm up by "gyrating" our hips on the balls... oh man...  a room with 360 degree mirrors and girls gyrating on balls all around me... girls that I shouldn't even be looking at at the age of 27... girls that were being born while I was watching Airwolf and Night Rider.  No way... that's trouble... won't be taking that course again.  haha. 
    On thursday I decided to have a get together at my place with all the new COAS people thCimg6136at turnedCimg6130
out to be a great time.  We bbq'd some burgers in the back yard (It's been sunny and 75 to 80 for nearly two straight weeks now) and drank some microbrewed beers from the area.  Gwen also showed up with her boyfriend Cosmo and some
home made brew they had made themselves.  Jason and I let them try the homemade brew Jason hadCimg6141 brewed here as well.  Anna and Eleanor got into a twizler fight that actually left bruises on th
eir skin... (which Eleanor made sure to sign her name to).  Check out the video here:  We all chilled out in our backyard for while with Kenzie running around eating our spare burgers and causing mischief.  It was Brendan, Karen, Bart, Gwen, Cosmo, Anna, Isaac, Eleanor, Greg, Ashley (girl I met at Graduate School General Orientation), Mac, Jason, McKenzie (coolest dog in the world) and I.  There is now a waiting list of COAS people that want to move into my place as soon as Jason leaves.  Everyone was amazed at how much our place has for the little price that we pay.  I'm going to have to hold some serious interviews when Jason moves out!
    I haven't started my assistantship yet with Anne but have been reading up on some papers that she has given me.  Hopefully this coming week I'll be able to get together with her and get started.  She just bought an apple computer with two dual intel cores, 4 terabytes of hard disk, 6gb of RAM, and a beautiful 30 inch cinema display monitor that I'll most likely be solely working on.  Basically it's the most powerful conumer grade computer that Apple makes now and is worth about 10 grand I bet.  Anyway... that's the gist of my first week here... It's beautiful here and hasn't rained yet but they say it will start in about 2 more weeks and from Nov. to May it will be crappy pretty much every day, but what I've seen of the summer (non-stop sun) it will more than make up for the winter.  Anyway... miss everybody back home, especially the beautiful, sweet caring Emily Rigsy, and of course my rents. 


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Well, last night was interesting...

Yesterday was the first day of Fall Festival here in Corvallis.  Jason and I took McKenzie downtown to walk around the market for a bit and I spent some time in Peak Sports writing down guide books that I want to order on Amazon for the area.  The saturday farmers market here is amazing with tons of fresh veggies and fruit grown in the very fertile Willamette Valley region where I now live.  There were local bands playing folk music and a very good ambiance overall. 
    When I got back to the apartment I went to the Grocery Outlet (cheap grocery store) and got 70 bucks worth of food which would have cost me well over 150 back in Saratoga... gotta love Oregon... also gotta love that there is no sales tax here either...
    Later I decided to meet up with Jason downtown at a concert of the festival where locally-popular Cimg6079
Stairway Denied was playing.  Stairway Denied is a very good local Zeplin cover-band.  When I got there they were in their encour set but still sounded amazing.  Jason and I then went downtown to Squirrels for a drink and to watch Amadon, an incredible Celtic band with a genuine digiridoo player ( I have no clue how to spell that).  I had ridden down on my longboard so I stashed it in the woods near the river behind where market was earlier in the day.   Jason and I each bought a pitcher of Black Butte porter (only $11.50 for a huge pitcher of microbrewed beer! - makes for a cheap night).Cimg6086  Anna and Issac showed up along with a bunch of Jason's friends.  Jason was a little worried about having to get up at 6am to monitor the annual foot race the next day at the festival as first aid until
he spotted his fellow co-worker with a pitcher in his hand as well... haha.  We stayed and watched the band rock out until about 1am when they closed down (bars rarely stay open past midnight here).  I got to say hi to the owner, Greg Little,  again.  He definitely remembered me from kicking the keg at the Cimg6097
COAS picnic.  Anna had left a little earlier and given us her nearly full pitcher... so Jason and I had a very cheap <$15 dollar night and we were lit.  I went to go grab my board... this is where the comedy of the night starts... and saw a couple sitting on a nearby bench watching me.  I took a few strokes then saw a red object appear to hurtle past me.. I yelled back, "hey, stop throwin apples at me man!", thinking they had thrown a left over apple from the market at the punk skateboarder... nope... it was my wheel, flying off the front of my longboard.  It nearly sent me crashing to the ground.  I then had to spend 5 minutes, in a very dilierious state searching for the damn thing in the flowers and bushes with the light from the front of my board (I have lights on my longboard believe it or not).  Finally I found it and made a mad dash up the streets, not really knowing my way yet, to catch up with Jason.  I live past Fraternity and Sorority row and with the lights on my board running by I got a lot of attention and was invited into more than a few parties but I kept going, reminding myself that I'm 27, in graduate school, and way to old for that kinda shit now (yeah right... I'm sure I'll stop in at one at some point... who am I kidding?, but not that night).  I called Emily in a state of bewilderment at what had happened to me.  So far in Oregon I've smashed my bike, lost the wheel to my board and have managed to crash and bash and cut myself up nearly every day that I've been here hiking, biking, or climbing in the gym... what gives? 
    I finally caught up with Jason about two blocks from our apartment and called it a night after telling him my funny story about 3 times.  I love it here... you can go out and have a terrific time with friends, great music, and incredibly cheap beer for just over $10 bucks a weekend.... exactly what I'm looking for.  After that night it became pretty clear that Jason and I are going to become really good friends.  Finally a roomate that is social and wants to hang out and have a good time with me socially who also does the same activities that I do. 


Friday, September 22, 2006

New COAS People

Well this was the first week of meeting all my fellow new COAS graduate students.  They are a great bunch of people with various backgrounds.  Some come straight from their undergrad while others have done tours with the Peace Corps, studying abroad, working with the USGS etc etc.  Last friday at the General Grad School Orientation I met a really cool girl named Ashley Hatfield from NY who went to school in Colorado and is now here studying geology.  She loves mountain climbing and has done many of the high peaks in NY as I have.  I'm definitely going to stay in touch with her while here and try to climb together... really ironic that she happened to sit down at the same table I was sitting at alone. 
    Mac Barr and I ironically graduated in the same class from Bowdoin and now find ourselves in COAS together after years of being out of school.  I've also really hit it off with a girl named Anna Pakenham who just got done with the Peace Corps in Guam where she became a master scuba diver.  Everyone I've met seems to have had great experiences and adventures in their past like I have which makes me feel right at home here.  This week we had a tour of the Hatfield Marine Cimg5981
Center and Newport Acquarium at Newport on the coast as well as a tour of one our research vessels where I got to sit in the captains chair and check out all the dials.Cimg6006  Hopefully I'll be able to go on a research cruise at sea in the near future.  (we have to take a saftey course where they put us in dry "gumby" suits and toss us into the cold pacific waters and leave us there for a while.. I've heard funny stories about
them boating off and leaving people to scare them).  We also were able to eat lunch at a cool restaurant on the wharf which is owned by a prior COAS student.  I had Dunganese crab soup and crab sandwich which weren't as sweet as New England Lobster but still pretty damn good.   
    We also got a tour of the OSU wave center by Meg (girl I stayed with while visiting here in January) where my roomate Jason also works.  The facility was enormous and Jason informed me that if we pull the right strings there I could actually jump in and surf the wave pool (he pointed to some suspicous looking surf boards against the wall with sand on them).  We also got to see the Tsunami wave simulating pool which is one of the largest in the world (Jason told me he has kayaked in it).  It was very cool.... Check out the video of it in action here: (will post soon).  Meg did a great job on the tour :)
    After the wave center tour Anna and I asked Meg if it was important for us to go the All College Meeting scheduled shortly after.  Meg didn't think was too important so Anna and went to Dixon Rec center to go bouldering for a few hours... little did we know that our names were actually called out in front of all of COAS to introduce us and Anna and I were two of the few missing... whoops!  We then headed out (this is Thursday still if I didn't mention it) to the COAS picnic in Walnut Park.  I Cimg6056
heard there would be beer so I road my bike from my house up the hills from theCimg6057 valley to Walnut Park to partake in a soccer game with everyone and chow down at the BBQ.  For 2 bucks you could have all you could drink.  After a few hours I was amazed that the keg of Fat Tire Ale was still flowing so Mac, Eleanor and I decided to step it up a notch and make sure that it was kicked (embarassing that a party of
nearly 75-100 people couldn't kick a keg.  (the tupperware container in the pic is the end of the keg with Mac :) The bartender I found out was the owner of Squirrels ( a Cimg6060
very popular bar downtown) so I made sure to stay a while and chat it up with him so he would remember me if I came by looking for a job later in the year.  Well, after a while Eleanor, Mac and I and an burly bearded man named John from the wave lab kicked the keg before dark.  The three of us road our bikes (very sloppy at this point) to Chris Holme's after party where we continued to have a great time keg tossing and hanging out with the upper classman.  Mac was lucky enough to get aCimg6068
ride home by Anna with his bike on top of her very cool diesel Bug (seriously it gets 50 mpg!) and I'm sure he was glad to get the ride because as you can see from the picture it was that time of night.... haha.  It was a rough night for Mac, Eleanor and I but we definitely made sure to represent the incoming COAS class and make an impression on the upper classman, ya know, show them that we know how to have a good time :). 
    It was a great first week meeting everyone and hanging out with the COAS faculty and locals.  I feel very at home here with everyone and I know that I'll have a great time here at Oregon State and will be able to experience the Pacific Northwest as much as possible.


Dan's Trail with Anna and Mac

Today Anna and I decided to go on a mountain bike ride in the local MacDonald Research Forest which is known locally for it's sick mountain bike trails.  The forest is a research forest for OSU and the trails are very well maintained and easy to ride (except for the hills and switchbacks).  Mac heard me talking about the ride and asked if he could tag along which of course was great, more the merrier.  We headed up in my truck around 4:30 to Chip Ross park where we unloaded our bikes and headed up the trail --- Snap... 100 feet from the truck my chain snapped... this sucked... no let me say that again... this really sucked because it took all 3 of us helping with my Alien bike tool to re-assemble my chain (now two links short) back together.. resulting in my ability to only utilize a quarter of my gears successfully on the entire ride.  Mac and Anna have great cross-country bikes while my bike is a heavy (40lbs) freeride bike meant mostly for downhill and jumps, which combined with my crappy chain that kept popping slowed me down.  That and the fact that for the past 2 weeks I hadn't really done much excersize except for the small hike with Kenny in Glacier National Park... so yes, I was out of shape.  The trail was beautiful and the switchbacks took a lot of the difficulty out of the 1000 foot ascent to the top of Dimple Hill at 1495 feet.  On the way up we passed a pear tree where I grabbed a few to much on, and lots of blackberry bushes.  Mac and Anna took off ahead of me leaving me in the dust... man was I going slow... what was going on? 
    At the top we got a great view over the valley and Corvallis below.  There were enormous blackberry bushes everywhere which we took the time to snack on for a bit.  We relaxed for a little Cimg6071
bit on top ( I saw a wierd looking snake when I went to take a piss) and then bombed down the trail we had come up.  I went first because I'm used to downhilling and could go a little bit faster with my full suspension - this time it was my turn to lead :).  But as soon as we hit a hill again my legs were spinning while Mac and Anna toasted me again.... At one point while I was ahead I saw a cool dip onto a logging road that crosses the trail so I decided to jump it... bad idea.  The dip turned into a bump on the other side and I didn't clear it... I slid with my bike still attached to my foot at the pedal across sharp gravel directly beneath a beautiful blonde on her bike coming up the trail... Why do I always seem to smear myself against the ground in front of beautiful girls... it's my curse... I did the same thing when I shattered my knee while in Boston skiing in front of a beautiful girl named Rachel, and I broke my collarbone infront of a beautiful girl named Lindsay... why why why why why?  haha.  Anyway, Mac caught up and got a glimpse of the shit show on the ground and chuckled.  I picked myself up and continued to ride down, bleeding from the leg, hip, arm and back and shoulder.  A good bit of road rash always makes for a good ride.  When I got to the bottom I noticed something about my bike finally... the back hydraulic brakes were clamped tight on my wheel to the point that I couldn't even spin the wheel with a great bit of effort... no wonder I was so slow... my damn back brakes were somehow locked out... time to bring it to the bike shop.  I dropped the two of them off and had a relaxing night at home with McKenzie painfully licking my road rash throughout the evening :)


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit

Tonight I went to the first Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit meeting.   Jason is a member (the secretary) of the Volunteer unit here.  The group is called in when someone is hurt or lost in the mountains.  Our area is the area from the Coastal Range, through the Willamette Valley to the Cascade mountains including the Sisters and Mt. Jefferson (two very big volcanoes).  The team is made of up a great crew of people.  There is a fireman who just won the Pacific Northwest Firemans challenge (ran up 70+ stories in full gear at under 10 seconds per story (or something ridiculous like that) and others who run marathons regularly and are all serious mountaineers.  I will have to go through some serious training to be a member of the crew.  I will need Avalanche Training, Mountain Rescue Training, a Wilderness First Aid Course, and several other first aid certifications before I am a member.  But when I become a member I will be able to rescue people and partake in saving lives in the mountains and it will look great on my mountaineering resume for when I go to attempt bigger climbs like McKinley, Kilamanjaro, Elbrus, Vinson and Everest.  It will also give me a lot of mountaineering training as well.  Jason is a great roomate for this as he is fully certified in everything and can teach me a lot about mountain travel at high altitudes with glaciers. 
    According to Jason if I attend meetings regularly and show that I am serious and start taking training courses I should become a member in about a year.  It will be great community service while I'm here and it might even allow me to save a life or two.  It will also give me more confidence in the outdoors when I'm traveling with inexperienced climbers. 
    At the meeting tonight we got to play with a lot of the safety equipement to test it out to make sure it is working properly.  I was able to secure the 170lb dummy, try out an arm cast, and put Cimg6022
together an oxygen tank.  That's Jason all tied up wih the neck brace in the pic.  I'm really enthusiastic about the group and hope that it showed.  The meetings areCimg6023
the first tuesday and 3rd wednesday of every month and I hope to attend every one that I can.  Jason has told me about the rescues he has been on and they seem to be really amazing and very self rewarding (they've gotten many thank you letters from the people they take care of).  The group also hosts the annual ski swap in town where Jason can put away anything I'd like to buy before they even open the doors to the public - a nice bonus to the job.  I'll keep everyone updated as I find time for training and as my position in the unit is created and evolves.  If you'd like to check out the official home page of the unit click here.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mary's Peak

Today I decided to go for a hike up Mary's Peak, the tallest mountain in the coastal range at 4,098 feet and only 30 minutes drive from Corvallis.  I drove the road up (very cool winding road with banked turns) to the Connors Campground parking lot and then hiked up from there as Jason had suggested in my Keene Sandals.  It was a 3 mile hike through some of the most beautiful forest I've Cimg5919
ever hiked through.  The trail was very flat (there are no roots in trails out here like the northeast) with berries everywhere.  It was like a buffet along the trail.  The trail is also a mountain biking trail which I discovered when several downhillers went blowing by me coming down from the summit.  The trees on the slope of the mountain, red cedars and douglas firs, had the traditional Pacific NorthwestCimg5929a
reddish hue to them, which mixed with the bright green vegetation of the moist coast and clear blue skies made for a beautiful assortment of colors.  The trees are also enormous... I'm talking like 150 feet or higher... they seem to just reach for the skies with their bases being atleast 8-15 feet in diameter.  As I hiked up the switchbacks on the east ridge trail I passed from open strands of huge cedars and first to grassy meadows, and even a very cool old-growth forest before breaking out to the open meadow of the Cimg5936
summit.  The road goes almost all the way to the summit so there were families with young children running around in the grass at the top.  There were great views over the Willamette Valley towards Jefferson (huge volcano in distance).  I hung out on the summit for a little while before deciding to literally run back down the smooth trail to my truck which only took about 20 minutes.  I tightened up my keenes and let loose down the trail, legs and knees burning the whole way.  I got to within sight of my truck when.. WHAM! I fell face first onto the path skinning the palm of my hand... damnit...Cimg5942 well, atleast there wasn't any hot girls around to see me like usual... haha... I through a band aid on in my truck and drove home.... It only took about 2.5 -3 hours for the trip but it was very rewarding
at the top and I can't wait to go back and hit the trails on my mountain bike!  Oh... and I almost hit some wild turkeys crossing the road on the way home... :)


Saturday, September 16, 2006

My new place in Corvallis, OR

  Well, I've moved into my new place in Corvallis.  My new address is 1036 NW 25th Street in Corvallis, OR 97331.  My phone number is still 518-935-3275 with Verizon.  Now to tell you a little bit about my place... It's a house about 5 blocks from campus.  It's got a covered car port, big backyard with a cherry tree and hopps trees for when we brew beer later this year, a garden, covered patio with lounge chairs, a smoker, and two big grills, and a huge empty lockable garage where we keep all of our gear stowed away which has a kegorator in it and another freezer.  There is a front yard as well.  My roomate Jason Killian and I live upstairs over two girls who live in the "dungeon" downstairs.  The upstairs has a full laundry room off the car port with shelves lined with microbrews Jason has picked up over the past few months and a pantry.  We have a full kitchen with dishwasher, dining room table and living room with a fireplace which we are going to buy wood for soon so we can have fires inside this winter.  The entire house is carpeted as well except for the kitchen.  My bedroom is 12X12 and I've got windows right behind my bed.  This house has apparently been passed down through COAS (College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Studies - What I'm in) students for over 10 years who each left cool stuff behind.  I got all of this for only $300 a month rent!  Pretty sick hook up.  Now to tell you about my roomate...
    Jason Killian is my age, just graduated with his masters after working with Rob Holman on wave research.  He's from Michigan and since he's been here has become an outdoor guru with more gear than I can even comprehend.  He's part of the Mountain Rescue squad here and participates in alpine rescues, manhunts, and searches with the local police and mountain guides.  He knows glacier travel and has done extensive rock climbing including leading on some serious alpine ascents.  I can't wait to learn all that he can teach me and I also plan on becoming a mountain rescue member myself.  He has an 18 month old golden retriever named McKenzie who is very energetic and playful but well behaved.  Jason will be working in the Wave Research Center at OSU when he officially graduates this fall.  He's a great guy and I think we'll get along great.  It's awesome to live with someone who knows the area so well, is into the same things as I am, and can give me advice for school, teachers, local events, places to go, etc etc.  I'm living with the inside scoop of Corvallis, OR.  Now a little bit about Oregon that I've learned in the little time I've been here.
    I had a few drinks the past couple nights with Jason and the COAS crew.  From talking to them I've learned this:  1. There are no mosquitos... anywhere.  2.  Blackberry bushes are weeds out here that can grow to 20 feet tall and as I've already found out are absolutely delicious.  3.  Everything is huge out here - trees, mountains, vegetation etc.  4.  There are many little drive through coffee shops.  5.  Everything here is cheap and Organic Vegetables are the cool thing to do around here.  6.  Everyone is outdoor minded, liberal and appreciate and take care of the environment.  7.  You can't find Miller, Coors, Bud, etc in the town... It's all really good micro brewed beer that you can get at any night of the week for $2 pints at various cool establishments.  8.  Everyone is extremely helpful and very friendly.  9.  Everything isvery green from the amount of rain the region gets... every patch of dirt has something green growing from it and the bark of most of the trees are covered with moss.  10.  I'm gonna love it here!


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Goodbye New York

Well, I'm in Oregon now.  Corvallis, Oregon to be exact, home of the Oregon State Beavers.  I had a hell of a Cimg5337trip with my buddy Ken Wilhelm across the U.S. in just 7 days.  It took me all day on Monday to pack the u-haul trailer I would tow across the country.  Luckily I had the very beautiful, sexy, and helpful Emily Riggott to help me out.  I obviously bought a trailer that wasn't big enough which meant I had to put a few things in the back of my truck and literally pack the 5x8 trailer floor to ceiling.
Atleast we finished around 9pm so Emily and I could relax at her place for the rest of the night.  It was hard saying bye to Josh and Jess but it was even harder saying bye to my mother and especially my father who I may not ever see again face to face because of his ailing health. life goes on though and I know he is proud of me which makes me feel better.   The next few posts I'm going to write about our trip. 
    Day 1 - Tuesday
    Emily dropped me off at my apartment and I had to say goodbye to the best thing that has happened to me in a long time which was excrutiatingly hard.  It's going to be very lonely at night without her curled up at my side...  After my mom took me out to breakfast and helped me clean up the Saratoga Apartment I headed out to pick Ken up in Albany at around 10:30am.  After grabbing Ken, reorganizing the back seats of my truck with his gear and mine we took off across western NY at 11:30am, 3 hours later than I had planned...   It was a pretty uneventful day of driving across boring NY, PA, OH, and into Indiana.  We stopped in Seville, Ohio for a quick dinner around 7:30pm at a Subway in a roadside truck stop.  I had planned on trying to make it to Missouri that night but it was not to be.  I ended up driving until 2 am when I decided it was time for some much needed sleep.  I typed in "park" into my GPS and it came up with Hawthorn Park & JI Case  Wetland  Cimg5346_1
Wildlife Refuge nearby.  It sounded fine to me so we followed the GPS to a boat launch next to a wetland
preserve and set up my new Marmot NYX tent next to the parking lot for the night.  I decided to open the back traler to look for a pillow for Ken and sliced my finger open in the process bleeding all over myself.  I decided it was safer to just keep the back trailer shut for the remainder of the trip and hope that everything stayed put in it.  Ken and I passed out immediately. I had driven 853 miles on day one and had stopped for gas at a Sunoco in Canastota, NY, a Mobile in Angola, NY, a Pilot in Seville, OH, and a TCA in Eaton, OH.

Day 2 - Wednesday

    Ken and I woke up to a woman telling us "You're not allowed to camp here"... whoops.  I said, "ok, we're outta here", rustled Kenny awake and hit the road again.  We filled up at a local gas station for the unbelievably low price of $2.25 regular unleaded!  We then continued on through Illinoise and past St. Louis where Ken was excited to see the famous St. Louis Arch in the distance.  At St. Louis we took a left on I-55 south towards Taum Sauk Mountain, the highpoint of Missouri.  It was a good 4 hour detour from our route down winding back roads in Missouri but I wanted to get it as I'm still working on getting all the 50 state highpoints.  It was pretty hairy at times with the trailer behindCimg5362
us, especially pulling the damn thing up the road to the summit tower on the mountain but we made it.  The summit wasn't very exciting.  Ken and I climbed a ~100 foot fire tower that had the door at the top to the platform locked so we couldn't get all the way to the top.  The views were of rolling hills... nothing spectacular.  We then climbed down, drove around the park for a bit until we found the trail to the actual summit marker.  It was a paved walkway through the woods that led to aCimg5374
marker and a large boulder marking the summit of Missouri.  After snapping a few photos we left the park, stopped at a Sonic (my first Sonic experience) for lunch and continued driving towards Nebraska.  I drove as far as I could until Ken noticed me swirving all over the road and we decided to pull over for some food at a gas station at a little after midnight.  We ate a big meal and I decided to let Kenny drive for a bit as I dosed in and out of sleep.  When I woke up it was nearly 4am and we were pulling off of the highway  near Chapelle, NE.  I opened my eyes and told Ken to pull into a nearby parking lot that also had a semi parked there for the night.  It turned out we parked in a historic Pony Express mile marker station called Hughes Ranch.  I was so tired I just pulled out my sleeping bag, blew up my thermarest and crashed under the stars next to the trailer.  Kenny took the time to set up the tent and climb inside.  So far we had driven 1968 miles (1115 miles this day).  We had stopped for gas at a Pilot in Terre Haute, IN, a Quicktrip in Herculaneum, MO, a Conoco in Arcadia, MO, a Conoco near Columbia, MO, a Farris Truck Stop in Faucett, MO, a BP in Waco, NE, and one other past that which I was asleep for... :).

Day 3 - Thursday

I woke up early around 7am and put on a tarp I had bought at a truck stop the night before because the plastic one Jess had given me for the back of the truck had shredded to pieces.  I walked aroundCimg5379
and snapped a pic of the Pony Express Mile Marker in the lot we were in.  At around quarter to 8 I shook Kenny's tent and got him up.  We drove for a few more hours until we hit the town of Kimball, NE where Kenny decided we should go see Chimney Rock National Monument (on the back of the quarter for Nebraska) and also see Scotts Bluff National Monument.  When we got off the highway my GPS said to take highway 71 from Kimball to Scotts Bluff and back East to Chimney rock but of course kenny found another road, county road 88 through Reddington to Chimney rock.  I knew that the GPS was programmed to take the most direct route but I decided to hell with it and to follow Kenny's suggestion.  Initally the road was beautiful pavement and rolling hills so we naturally busted out my Sector 9 Longboard for some cruisin down the hills..... Then we came to the construction.... and the end of the paved road.... Kenny was driving and the gps recalculated our best route over the mountains to the north... and Kenny missed our turn... right after saying to me, " I know how to friggin' read the damn gps"... haha.  We turned around, which probably further confused and amuzed the construction workers (us with NY plates on a backroad in the middle of Nebraska towing a friggin' trailer).  So we got back on track on Reddington road over the buttes to the west.  The road was gravel and was severely rutted out by tractors and other large equipement so that my whole truck and U-haul trailer shook like we were in a paint mixer the whole way across.  Ken of course thought this was fantastic (I did too actually) but I was thinking about all my stuff in the U-haul shaking and shifting to all new positions locking the sliding door shut even tighter.  On the other side of theCimg5397
Buttes we encountered a herd of cows that seemed to be very interested in us.  It was Ken's first time crossing via vehicle into an area blocked off by cattle grates we drive over that they can't cross with their hooves.  Thus, we found ourselves surrounded by curious cows.  After another mile or so of rough road in prarie dog  Cimg5399
country we were back on pavement and headed to a nice viewpoint of Chimney National Monument.  We continued on to Scotts Bluff and got some great pics of the bluffs in a 270 degree view around us.  Kenny stood on the U-Haul trailer to get better pics.  Already Kenny was amazed by the geology of the West and we weren't even out of Nebraska... this made me very happy.   After Scotts Bluff we took the very easy and fast route 71 (the one the GPS initially saidCimg5406
to take) back to Kimball and got on the highway towards Panorama Point (the highpoint of Nebraska).  On the way back to Kimball on 71 we saw building clouds over hills lined with giant electric wind mill generators.  Each of the three blades on them had to be atleast 100 feet in length. Cimg5423
The rain was cool because we could actually see the edges of where it was coming down over the plains (see pic).  Once on the highway we got into a very strong but brief thunderstorm which pounded the truck (I was very thankful I put the new tarp on that morning).  We stopped in Pine Bluffs for gas and to get a quick lunch at the A&W there before heading south from the highway towards the highpoint.  As we headed out of town the GPS directed us down wet gravel roads for about 15 miles towards the high point.  Kenny was driving andCimg5427 the truck was slipping so we put it in 4x4.  Then the hail storm hit.... hail the size of marbles brought us to a stop on a remote backroad.  Kenny decided it would be fun to jump out and
run it.... haha.  We finally came to a fenced in area marking the 4x4 road through wild Bison territory to the highpoint.  With the trailer still on I told Kenny to go for it and we tore it up the rutted out dirt 4x4 path for about a mile passing by Bison and running over a lot of Bison shit on the way.  Cimg5435The highpoint wasn't very Cimg5431
spectacular so we just took a few pics and left.  The picture of my truck shows a herd of buffalo in the background that we drove by and a buffalo pattie (one of many we drove over).  By the time we got back to the highway the
trailer and back of my truck was covered in Bison shit and mud... but everything was still intact and I had my final highpoint of the trip. :) From that point on was a long trudging grind up through Cheyenne and Wyoming over the Continental Divide a few times towards Jackson Hole and the Tetons.
    Route 191 was very desolate and dark as we drove the several hours up it towards the Tetons.  At one point we found ourselves going down a very windy hill towards the  valley where Jackson Village is.  Kenny of course suggested we break out the Longboard again whick we did.  I turned on the lights on it and went about 3/4 of a mile down the road until the vibrations were hurting my feet and I had to stop.  It was so steep I was carving across 4 lanes and the shoulder just to turn enough to speed check.  We drove down a little further and Ken jumped on the board.  I told him to make turnsCimg5442
but instead he pretty much straight-lined it right down the double yellow... I kept yelling for him to turn or bail out before he picked up too much speed and eventually he waved for me to come up and get him so at nearly 25mph with a trailer behind me I had to pull up next to him while he was still moving so he could grab the truck to slow himself down.... (see pic) thankfully it worked because about 20 seconds later a huge semi came around the corner that would have crushed Ken! 
    We got to Jackson Village at midnight and I was exhausted.  I got a quick pic of me under theCimg5446
famous arch of Elk Antlers.  Ken decided to talk to a local van driver to get the inside scoop and got entangled in a 20 minute conversation with the guy which ticked me off a little cause I was so tired but also gave me time to look at the amazing National Park Guidebook that Emily had given me as a going away gift (awesome book and very helpful) so that I could plan our day the next day in the Tetons.  Finally he came back to the car and after a quick stop at Wendy's for a midnight dinner we drove through the park past many full campsites, almost hitting an elk in the road,  until we came to the Colter Bay Campground and found a spot.  I quickly set up the tent and climbed in for some sleep.  We had driven 2721 miles (753 that day).  We had stopped for gas in Kimball, NE, Laramie, WY, Rock Springs, WY, and in Pinedale, WY.

Day 4 - Friday
I woke up at 8pm and after driving to pay our camp fees for the two days at Colter Bay and paying $3.50 for a shower I kicked Kenny awake.  We took a drive down the Park Road south until we got to Jackson Lodge and went on a short hike on the Lunch Tree Loop Trail.  The Trail was a frequent picnic stop used by John D. Rockefeller Jr. who purchased much of the land in 1926 and convincedCimg5452
congress to establish the Tetons as a National Park in 1929.  It was neat to stand in the place where it was decided the park should be preserved while also having an amazing view over Willow Flats to the Grand Teton Range.  After the short hike Ken and I drove up Signal Mountain.  Thankfully I had disengaged the trailer and left it at the campsite so my truck easily made it up the road.  From the summitCimg5462 we had great views of the Snake River to the North and over Jackson Lake to the Tetons to the West.  We could also see glacial Kettles where giant hunks of the glacier deposited in the valley had melted away leaving deep depressions which the locals call Potholes.  We then drove through the park stopping at many scenic turnouts to view the Teton Range.  We got great views of Mt. Moran (which actually looks taller and more dominating than the Grand
Teton) with its 150 foot black dike of cooled magma very visible.  At a Jenny Lake turnout we got a great view of Cascade Canyon across tCimg5487
he lake between Mt. St. John to the North and Teewinot Mountain to the South.  There was a park ranger there as well displaying the hides of all the large animals of the park which was cool to see.  We then headed south down the park road again until we met up wih the one-way Jenny Lake Road which took us to the SouthCimg5493 Jenny Lake Ranger station and boat launch for our $8 ferry across Jenny lake to the mouth of Cascade Canyon for our afternoon hike.  I bought some Trail Mix (Kenny demands I call it this instead of GORP) and we headed across the lake.  The trail up to Hidden Falls was well marked
and is undoubtedly the most popular one in the park as we saw many people on the trail.  The falls were fantastatic against the backdrop of jagged peaks reaching into the Cimg5510
sky.  Ken and I decideded to hike further to Inspiration Point overlooking Jenny Lake.  It was a nice view but Ken discovered a much better place about 100 yards up the trail (the pic of both of us sitting on the rock).  Ken was just blown away by the scenery so despite my desire for another afternoon hike I didn't stop him when he decided to keep hiking up the trail into Valhalla Canyon.  We heard there were moose up ahead on the trail so we hiked another mile or soCimg5518
before I spotted the male moose snackin' on some vegetation next to the canyon stream.  We took a few pictures and a nice couple that were with us let me use their binoculars to snap a couple pics of the moose close up.  Kenny and I also Cimg5515
came across an animal called a Pika (see pic).  When we walked by this animal it would cheep a very loud (EEEEEE) which was the funniest sounding noise Ken and I had heard.  It seemed to only come out and squawk at us as we were walking away.  The trail was beautifully maintained and there were many large boulders to walk around that had fallen down from the cliffs above.  Ken and I decided to take the horse trail back for a loop route to the dock for the boat pickup.  Our hike was 4.3 miles long and we climbed from 6826 to 7497 feet.  When we got back across Jenny Lake Ken and I were both starving so we drove back to Jackson Lodge and had dinner at the Pioneer Grill in the lodge which was basically a large cafeteria of countertop dining.  We both had a bowl of Western Chili (which became standard for the remainder of the trip) and I also had a burger..... Then I saw the desert... It was called somethingCimg5521
like "The Grand" because it contained 3 scoops of icecream, bananas, strawberries, hot fudge, and whipped cream ON TOP of a Belgium waffle.  Well, Kenny dared me so I decided to go for.  I soon had the guests around me and the servers rooting me on... If it wasn't for the fact that the waffle was rock hard because it was made in the morning, frozen, then reheated I may have been able to finish it but I stopped after everything on top and refused to eat the waffle.  Our very nice server still gave it to me for free for all the effort so I left him a nice tip.
    Ken and I then headed back to Colter Bay for the evening without time to do my planned hike around Hermitage Point.  In the morning a nice couple from NY had given us an extra sleeping pad for Ken to use and a different couple had given us their left over firewood.  One thing about being Cimg5526
west of the Mississippi is that everyone, I mean EVERYONE, is super nice and super friendly.  Ken and I both picked up on this as we traveled through the National Parks to Oregon.  Kenny became the official "firestarter" of the trip and we ended up finishing the night up with a very drunk game of cards (hi-low, good-the-bad-the-ugly) with a bottle of Captain Morgans that we tanked together in 45 minutes before 10pm quiet time (we definitely did not obide by that rule but thankfully nobody complained).  Apparently Kenny has some pretty funny video of me trashed and falling of the picnic table... haha.... before he gave me a fake DWI test (that I believe I still passed).  Kenny was all tore -up because he had only the Chili for dinner so he couldn't even balance on a log if he tried.  It was a great day in the Tetons and the weather was still holding out for us.  We had only driven 44 and were up to 2765 for the trip.
Day 5 - Saturday

Today I let Ken sleep in until about 9:30 am because we were so hammered the night before.  Today we took a drive through Yellowstone.  As soon as we got into the park we could immediately see fire damage from the '88 fires and from even more recent ones.  We stopped at a turnout that had some amazing igneos rock towers hanging out from the road over the Lewis River Canyon a few hundred feet below with burnt forest in the background.  I of course jumped the gaurd rail, ran down and hopped across them to the furthest one out for a picture. :)  A road sign told us that the fires of 88 were so strong that they easily jumped the 500 foot wide canyon.  We drove up the road a bit further and stopped at Lewis Falls for a few pictures.  We decided to make a big figure "S" of the park so that we would hit all the big important sites so we continued on towards Old Faithful passing by the beautiful Kepler Cascades which we stopped at for a few photos.  When we got to Old Faithful we got a bite to eat at the visitor center diner/cafe and then went out for a walk around the natural hot springs.  Yellowstone contains half of the world's 10,000 natural hotsprings so I'm sure Ken was going to be impressed, especially by Old Faithful which I've seen erupt in the past when passing through.      Because I'm a geologist I feel I must give you some info about Yellowstone so that you can fully appreciate what Kenny and I were standing on.... Catastrophic eruptions occurred here about 2 million years ago, then 1.2 million years
ago, and then 600,000 years a
go. The latest eruption spewed out nearly 240
cubic miles of debris. 
What is now the park's central portion then collapsed,
forming a 28- by 47- mile caldera (basin).    The magmatic heat
powering those eruptions still powers the park's famous geysers, hot springs,
fumaroles, and mud pots.)  If another
large caldera-forming eruption were to occur at Yellowstone, its effects would
be worldwide. Thick ash deposits would bury vast areas of the United States, and
injection of huge volumes of volcanic gases into the atmosphere could
drastically affect global climate. 

Scientists have revealed that
Yellowstone Park has been on a regular eruption cycle of 600,000
years. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago…so the next is overdue. The
next eruption could be 2,500 times the size of the 1980 Mount St. Helens
eruption. Volcanologists have been tracking the movement of magma
under the park and have calculated that in parts of Yellowstone the ground has
risen over seventy centimeters this century.  It is widely believed that if Yellowstone erupts again it could be a "global killer".

Ok, enough with the geology lesson.  While Kenny was watching for Old Faithful to erupt (once every 96 minutes on average) I took the long boardwalk around all the nearby springs and geysers.  In the distance I could see that there was a big one that was erupting so I hurried along to see it.  When I Cimg5578
got there the sign read "Giant Geyser".  Apparently the geyser became active in 2006 (Earthquakes and other changes in the ground beneath often "activate" or "deactivate" geysers for periods of time) and has been erupting 4 times a month on average since January.  I was luckily enough to catch it on the right day at precisely the right time.  Just getting to the platform in front of it got my clothes wet from the falling spring water (smells like sulfer - rotting eggs).  I walked the entire length of the walkway which turned out to be 3.8 miles (further than I thought).  I missed Old Faithful but was happy to have see all the different springs, especially Giant Geyser erupting.  I passed a herd of buffalo grazing in the field between springs and snapped a few pictures before urging Kenny, who was waiting for me, to get into the truck so we could keep moving.  We got in and Kenny asked if I saw the buffalo, I replied "yes, lets get going though"... then he said.. "yeah... but have you seenCimg5592
how close they are?"  I looked up and noticed they were headed right towards us over the walkway so Kenny and I got out for some pictures.... the whole time I'm hoping they don't congregate around my truck and trailer so we can leave.  After a few VERY CLOSE photos we took off and hit up Route 89 past Gibbons Falls - Very beautiful (check pic) towards the Yellowstone Grand Canyon.  On the way I saw a Cimg5600
sign for Artist Paintpots so we pulled over and hiked a short trail which was a 1.2 mile loop around bubbling springs and very cool bubbling mud pot.  We took a different road from the famous Yellowstone Mud pots area so it was great that Kenny could see what a smaller one looked like atleast as it burped up mud to the surface and splattered it everywhere.  I wanted to climb a peak in Yellowstone by 4pm but clouds were rolling in and even at Old Faithful I heard thunder in the distance and time was wanning so we pushed on towards the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  We took Norris Canyon Road across Virginia Meadows where we encountered our first Bull Elk sitting in a grassy meadow behind some trees posing for tourist photographs.
    The Grand Canyon of Yellostown is truly enormous.  Not as big as Arizona's Grand Canyon but just as impressive I feel (I've seen both).  When we got to Canyon junction we took a one-way side road past a large glacial erratic boulder to Inspiration point overlooking the northern CanyonCimg5616
(downstream) and then drove the North Riim road past several other overlooks that we stopped at where we got great views of the Lower Falls and of an Osprey's nest on a rock tower on the side of the Canyon.  At Inspiration Point a sign stated that 10 years ago the point was 150 feet further into the canyon but after a strong 6+ quake it fell hundreds of feet to the canyon floor... glad I wasn't standing there when that happened!  Now for a little bit about the Canyon that I read: The Canyon varies from 800 to 1200 feet in depth and from 1500 to 4000 feet in width.  It's length is about 24 miles.  The upper 2.5 miles is the most colorful section.  Hot spring activity has continued through the ages altering the lava rock to produce amazing colors which are largely due to varied iron compounds.  Steam vents and geysers can be seen on the canyon walls.

    After leaving the Grand Canyon we drove up the Grand Loop Road again (truck still having a hard time pulling the trailer up over all the passes and even the continental divde several times) towards Mammoth hot springs.  It was way to late to climb Mt. Washburn and I was dissapointed that weCimg5627
might not get to see any Big Horn Sheep but about 20 minutes later we found ourselves stopped in traffic as a black bear and its cubs crossed the road in front Cimg5638
of us and then half an hour later we enountered some mountain goats on the side of the road which was pretty cool.  We were definitely well on our way to checking off all the "big game" animals on the back of our free yellowstone map.  We passed by a section of the road near Devils Den where the magma cliffs above literally hung out over the road.  The columns of volcanic rock came from an ancient flow that was 25 feet deep that spreadCimg5650
across the yellowstone plateau.  When it cooled it formed contraction cracks forming the hexagonal columns of basalt that can be seen on either side of the canyon walls in a large band.  I tried to get a good picture of the band overhanging the road next to me but it was so big I couldn't get it in the frame.   Ken and I took a  short loop walk at Calcite Springs over Bumpus Butte to get some pics of the Yellowstone River below and the canyon walls in "the narrows".  On the other side of the cliff we could see ospreys at their nests.  We continued on and briefly stopped at a petrified tree  because kenny had never seen one but it was pretty boring so we quickly moved on.

As we continued on we encountered a herd of elk led by a large Bull Moose at Tower Junction.  We slowly drove with Kenny hanging out the window to get pics.  I stopped right next to the Bull Elk and Cimg5658
it started scratching the ground with its antlers and pawing the ground... kenny yelled in, "I think it's pissed, we should keep moving" so we did onward towards the northern end of the park and Mammoth Hotsprings which he hit up just as the sun was going down.  I remember being there about 7 to 8 years ago and seeing them more active than they were this time... I wonder why?  Kenny and I climbed up theCimg5660
long network of walkways to the top to get pics of the massive hot spring.  Mammoth hot spring is basically a giant terrace of mineral springs that are extremely hot.  It is literally a large hill that has grown to it's size by mineral accumulation.  The bluest minerals represent the hottest water while the reddest represent luke warm spring water.  Ken and I were barely able to capture some photos of the area before the sun went down and we left the park.

    Now you would think that our day was adventurous enough... nope.. not yet... I stopped in Bozeman, MT for fuel and we were just past Belgrade, MT when kenny was looking out the window at some fires on the mountain and noticed that my gas cap door was open.  I had been known to do this several times on the trip so I decided to pull over and check to make sure the gas cap was screwed in.  As soon as a did... whiff..... back tire was killed.... ok, no problem I've got the wrench and jack to fix it and a spare underneath... well Kenny put the lug nut wrench on, jumped on it and ripped the damn metal on the wrench... so... time to call Nissan Roadside assistance.  Thankfully I had my GPS and gave them an exact location.  Kenny and I, already very very late on our way to Rachels in Missoula 2+ hours away decided to smoke some cigars I had in a cooler in the back while we waited for the guy to arrive to change the tire.  What the hell right?  The guy showed up in just 15 minutes and chuckled when he saw us with our cigars and NY license plates.  He told us about massive forest fires that were about 200,000 acres in size north of Yellowstone that we must have passed in the dark.  He said Bozeman has been in thick smoke for days and that day was the first reprive they've had in a while... After thanking him we were back on the road at quarter to twelve and arrived at Rachel's just after 2am.  I thanked her, walked in and then fell onto the couch into a deep sleep from a very exhausting yet wonderful day.  We now had driven 3191 miles so far (426 miles that day) and had filled up for gas at Old Faithful in Yellowstone, In Bozeman, MT, and in Clinton, MT.

Day 6 - Sunday
    Today Ken and I slept in until about 10am when we got up and had breakfast with Jon and Rachel at a nearby popular cafe/restaurant.  They had enormous (I mean like 5 egg omelettes) that filled all of us up pretty quickly.  It was great to hang out with Rachel and Jon again and I thank them for letting us stay with them while we were passing through.  After lunch we came back to the apartment and disengaged the trailer from my truck for the 3 hour trip up to Glacier national Park.  That's when we noticed the right tire on the trailer was shredded down to the steel belt.  It must have happened when we blew out the back tire of my truck as well.  What did we possibly run over, a machete?  So Ken and I got a late start at about 11:30 towards Glacier National Park and I called U-Haul on the way up to go to Rachels and replace the tire.  The drive around enormous Flathead Lake was beautiful.  We saw many forest fires up in the mountains while we were slowed down by over 20 miles of road construction. 
    Cimg5688When we got to Glacier National Park I showed the reciept for Yellowstone and was able to pick up a year pass to all the National Parks in the country for just $25 more.  When we entered the park the mountains were stunning.  Ken and I stopped to take a walk on the Trail of the Cedars which was a wooden walkway through the woods about 1.4 miles long.  It was neat walking through a Northwest rainforest and seeing the different vegetation compared to the East Coast.  Everything was very
green and the bark on the cedars was a dark red against it all.  Combined with the bluebird skies above made for a very scenic walk.  We passed by the mouth of Avalanche Gorge, a gorge cut out by glacial melt water, and even was able to stick Kenny in a tree.
    We drove up the road a bit further and pulled over next to McDonald Creek for some photos of the surrounding mountains.  Kenny went down the river for some photos and I walked acrossed it withCimg5702
my Keen sandals on to cool my dry and cracked feet down from the very dry weather of the trip.  The rocks in the river were very smooth from years of glacial erosion down the streambeds.  They were also a multitude of colors. 
    We continued onward up the Going-To-The-Sun road which soon became a very steep winding road with thousand foot drops.  Kenny has a little bit of a height issue so everytime we pulled over to  a viewpoint I think it freaked him out a little bit.  Thankfully Cimg5720
we didn't have the trailer because vehicles over 20 feet in length aren't even allowed on the road.  The views of the surrounding mountains was absolutely phenomenal and we even saw a mountain goat scramble down the road for a bit until it dissapeared.  As we gained altitude towards Logan Pass we began to see glaciers on all the surrounding peaks.  Kenny and I both agreed that the Park had the best views out of anything we'd seen so far.  The road to Logans Pass made the Mountain Washington Highway in NH look like a steep driveway. 
    When we got to Logan Pass I had wanted to take a hike but we had taken too long coming up the Cimg5747
road and the sun was setting so we passed on it.  Instead we traveled down the road into the valley towards the St. Mary visitor center.  We continued to stop atCimg5772
roadside vistas including the weeping wall, Jackson Glacier and a waterfall.  We stopped for a long time at Going to The Sun Point on Upper St. Mary Lake.  We sat there and watched the sun set over the mountains we just traveled over.  Kenny must have gotten 30 photos of the sun going down from there.  It was amazing to see the rays of the sun hitting the other peaks and the sun itself was setting directly between two jagged peaks to the west.  It was one of the best sunsets i've ever seen.
    In St. Mary I filled up on gas, grabbed a case of beer and wood for a fire and continued North towards Many Glacier Campground.  We were able to get burgers at the Many Glacier Hotel in the bar before heading to the campground to set up our tent.  It was a beautifully clear night and we found aCimg5794
tent site far from anyone else so we would not disturb anyone with our drinking and card games.  I will definitely say that the drive on Going-To-The-Sun Road through the park was the most beautiful scenic drive I've ever done.  It was absolutely amazing seeing what the glaciers had carved out in the valley and the road side exhibits were very helpful in describing everything.   3399 total miles so far (208 today).

Day 7 - Monday

Today Kenny and I woke up around 9:30am and were headed to the Many Glacier trailhead by 10am for our hike to Grinnell Glacier.  The trail left Swiftcurrent Lake and followed the north side of the valley past Josephine Lake and the very blue-green Grinnell lake up the Grinnell glacier.  The views from the very start of the hike were amazing.  We were hiking up into the bowl which was the backside of the road we drove up the day before.  Grinnell Glacier is also one of the largest glaciers in the park.  We took our time and took many stops to take pictures of the alpine glacial lakes.  The lakes had a blue-green tint to them from the glacial sill that was being carried down into them from Cimg5802
the glaciers upstream.  About 3/4 of the way up the trail i spotted our first big horn sheep grazing on some trees in a pasture below the trail and grabbed Kenny to take some photos.  We continued on past some small waterfalls which were great to dip my Sox cap in to cool off.  The temperature was about 85 degrees but theCimg5890
Sun felt like it right on top of us and the wind gusts actually felt like blasts from an oven instead of cool breezes.  It definitely did not feel like a cool day in September... no wonder the glaciers are melting!  When we got above the large waterfall that was dumping glacial water into Lake Grinnell the breezes changed from hot to cool because they were blowing across the glacier fields.

When we came over the final crest to see the glacier it was one of the most beautiful sites I'd ever Cimg5828
seen.  At the base of the glacier there was an alpine lake literally filled with small floating icebergs that had broken off the enormous 200 meter wide glacier.  Behind the lake was a talll skinny waterfall called Salamander falls that was coming down from the Salamander Glacier even higher up on the ridge.  Another smallerCimg5848
waterfall was also coming off of Gem Glacier higher up on Mt. Gould as well.  Mt. Gould above us and the ridge on either side was actually the Continental divide that we had driven over and were now hiking back up to.  Ken and I rock skipped across the outlet to the iceberg-filled lake (which had no name as it used to be just a solid part of glacier before global warming).  The water coming out of the lake had carved a channel through the terraces of rock left by the retreating Grinnell Glacier.  At one point I leaped a good 5-6 feet and almost didn't make it across the freezing water....   We walked all the way across the lake and when we got to the glacier Kenny wanted to walk on it, which the signs suggested we don't do, but I agreed having done some glacier travel before myself and knowing what to look out for. It was also late summer so the danger of fresh snowCimg5856
bridges over crevasses was minimal.  So we headed across the glacier and I made sure we took a solid route far from steep slopes into the crevasses.  Kenny was amazed and kept chucking rocks into them to get a feel for how deep they were.  He was also full of geology questions as he was the whole trip... maybe Kenny missed his calling as a geologist?  We got pretty far across the glacier but I stopped us from getting too close to the falls because I knew the water would have weekened the snow there posing the danger of a collapse into a crevasse if weCimg5862
ventured there.  So we walked back across the glacier and headed down the mountain where I almost ran right into the same Big Horn sheep Cimg5883
we saw on the way up.  I came around the corner looking down at my camera and almost got rammed by him before he jumped up onto a cliff to watch us walk by.  Our hike turned out to be 11.9 miles and we climbed from 4894 to 6539 ft.  Kenny was absolutely starving so I picked up the pace a bit to get us out as fast as possible.  On the way out Many Glacier Road we got to finally see a Grizzly way up on the slopes with two cubs.  We stopped at a great local restaurant that specializes in Pie back at St. Mary's before heading back to Rachels.  We didn't have any time to do the other climbs in Logan Pass that I had wanted to but I felt we had a great day and had climbed to something most people that visit the park would never see - a glacial lake filled with icebergs and a massive glacier dumping into it!  Pretty sick.  We had come 3609 miles so far (210 that day). 

Day 8 - Tuesday

Today was my final day with anyone I know in my life.  I had mentioned to Ken that we may have time to swing through Mt. St. Helens on Tuesday on the way to his 10pm flight in Portland and he seemed really excited about it.  I also told him that we would have to get an early start on Tuesday to be able to do it.  So when I was up at 7:15 I expected him to jump out of bed and get ready as well... nope... he just curled up in his sleeping bag and ignored my warnings that if he didn't get up we wouldn't make it.  Well... we ended up leaving Rachel and Jon's around 9:45 so I knew in my head we wouldn't make it and I certainly wasn't planning on speeding down the highways with a trailer behind me using up more gas just to make it so I called off the plans for Mt. St. Helens. 

    Going through the mountains of Idaho was beautiful (and hard on the truck) but I was suprised to find myself in Nebraska-like plains when we hit Washington just past Spokane...  There was litterally nothing in site but rolling hills of crops and grazing cows, exactly like the midwest for about 2 to 3 hours.  I had no clue that Washington was like this.  When we finally made it into Oregon there were still some plains but we began to see more and more trees as well until we found ourselves going deep into the Columbia River Gorge.  It felt as if we were descending into the Grand Canyon or something.  The walls on either side of the canyon were steep with large butresses everywhere.  This created a wind tunnel effect from the Pacific which makes for great wind surfing and kiteboarding on the Columbia but also meant that we were fighting the wind the entire way on the bank of the huge river.   We passed several large hydroelectric dams and some beautiful scenery before we came to the city of Hood River which I wanted to explore so we pulled off.

     Hood River felt much like Saratoga Springs but was much more outdoorsy.  For every jewelry store or fancy clothes store there were 2 outdoor stores for wind sports, climbing, or biking in the area.  Ken and I had a good time walking around the stores before stopping for some chinese food at the Hood River Restaurant.  Kenny saw several skateboarders pick up some trash on the sidewalk and put it in a trash can which impressed him because as he said, "you wouldn't see that in theCimg5910 east".  I think we found the town that Kenny wants to move to out here.  After the very filling dinner, which we had tons of left overs from, we continued on down I-84 until I noticed a sign for Waterfalls and pulled off on to the Columbia River Historic Highway which runs parallel through the river canyon next to the Interstate.  We drove by sevaral very, very tall waterfalls on the side of the
road (very rough road under construction) before we came to Multinomah Falls.  With the upper waterfall and small 40 foot waterfall below the total drop is 600 feet.  I ran up to the bridge in the photo to snap a few pics while Ken stayed below.  The forest around the waterfalls on the road was lush green from the Oregon rainfall.  It was just a totally different environment of vegetation and ancient volcanic rock than I'm used to in the Northeast.  I can't wait to explore the region further. 

    After the falls it was an easy hour long drive in the setting Western Sun (right in my friggin' eyes the whole way) to Portland to get Kenny to his flight.  On the way we had some quick views of Mt. Hood in the distance as well as the shattered cone of Mt. St. Helens to the north (Kenny actually did get to see it after all).  After I dropped Ken off at the airport I immediately fell very alone.  I'm on the other side of the country from everything I know... it's a bit strange.  Every emotion possible, fear, excitement, loneliness, anxiety, happiness, wonder, confusion, etc etc I feel.  I've done this kind of move before when I moved to Maine to attend Bowdoin College but I've never gone so far as I have now.  I'm of course writing this from my computer in my new place so my next blog will be about where I'm living and my roomate but this entry has gotten completely out of control in length so I'm gonna end it here... Great Road Trip across the entire U.S. with Kenny.  We had seen the bggest variations in geology and terrain that this country has to offer.  We went from plains in Nebraska to Glaciers in Montana.  We also saw all of the biggest game animals in the country except for a Mountain lion thanfully.  It was a trip neither of us will ever forget.